THE PERSO-AFGHAN QUESTION 447 Two years later the life of the Shah was attempted by four Babis who posed as petitioners. He was wounded in the thigh, and the report was spread of his death. The punishment inflicted on the conspirators was barbarous. At first ten prisoners were executed. In the case of two, lighted candles were stuck into them, and after suffering this torture, they were hacked asunder with a hatchet. A reign of terror then ensued, and the Chief Minister, to avoid concentrating on himself the vengeance of the Babis, distributed the prisoners among the officers of the state,1 who did them to death. The Babis, including their famous poetess, the Kurrat- ul-Ayn, or " Coolness of the Eyes," displayed such bravery that they gained sympathy not only among their fellow- countrymen, but also among the Europeans resident in Teheran, and probably their heroic behaviour gained many converts to the new religion. - ., Foundation of the Russian Naval Station at Ashurada^ 1840.—The peculiarity of the southern coast of the Caspian littoral consists in salt lagoons formed by narrow spits of land. That of Enzeli, the''port of Resht, has already been referred to, and at Astrabad there is another. In this latter case the long narrow promontory runs out for thirty miles from the western coast and terminates in three small islands, the most easterly of which is close to the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. In 1836 the Persian Govern- ment had applied to the Tsar for naval assistance against Turkoman pirates, who raided the coasts of Mazanderan with impunity. This was granted, and the Russians, realizing the advantage of founding a permanent naval station in the south-east corner of the Caspian, occupied the island of Ashurada2 about the year 1840. The Government of the Shah remonstrated against this seizure of Persian soil, but without success. The Russian Minister, without denying the validity of the Persian claim to the island, pointed out that pirates could be held 1 The Shah's French doctor excused himself from hacking a Babi to pieces by saying that he killed too many men professionally to increase the number by homicide ! 2 In 1893 I anchored off the island, and I was surprised at its smallness, which is such that during a storm spray sweeps right across it. It is notoriously unhealthy, and the life of the officials posted on it must be trying in the extreme.